For some unknown reason – perhaps because I saw he was still under contract at Arsenal – I found myself looking at Abou Diaby stats earlier this week. Arsenal fans look upon his last contract with a great deal of regret, but I discovered that the data I had access to contained his last good season before the perma-crock hit, and it’s really quite impressive.

Abou_Diaby_2010

There are three peaks here that in combination are extremely unusual, and they are the Int, Tackles, and Dribbling totals. It’s a weird mix, because defensive mids generally don’t dribble the ball out that often, and certainly not at a per 90 rate that would imply the guy is a forward or a winger. Diaby’s rate of dispossession presumably frustrated Wenger to no end, but if he were to cut back on that just a touch, Diaby would have been  a worldie. Unfortunately, two particularly brutal injuries in his career broke his body, and at this point, who knows if he’ll ever play professionally again.

Now I mentioned above that the high defensive actions plus high dribbles is unusual. You might expect it a bit more in fullbacks who are obviously going to be involved with the defense, but also push into an attacking role on transition.

Not so fast, my friend!

In fact, out of aaaaall the thousands of player seasons we have access to over the last 4.5 years, the two other guys to post numbers like this were both CMs.

Gundogan_2012

This guy was possibly Dortmund’s most important player last season. It’s hard to measure the contributions of Gotze, Lewandowski, Reus, etc, but I watched a number of BVB games last year, and they just didn’t function as well without Gundo in the team.

This chart is masterful. A high usage rate plus frequent dribbles are always going to create issues with being dispossessed, but Gundo was more careful with the ball than Diaby was, and he did everything else well too. I hope he can get healthy and stay healthy, because he’s incredible.

Badelj_2013

This is another tremendous season of production, and a big reason why I was recommending Badelj as a quality purchase for a number of upper-tier Premier League teams last summer. His defensive work is treeeemendous (more than 8 actions per game), but again you see the huge transitional impact here, whether it’s from spraying accurate long balls to flank attackers, or from dribbling through the midfield to help get the ball forward.

His numbers haven’t been as good this season, but I’m inclined to write that off on the fact that Hamburg are a white hot mess more than anything else. This type of production is extremely rare and valuable and I still think Badelj would make a good buy for a Premier League team this summer.

Anyway, short and sweet today. I just wanted a place to host these radars, and also to point out a fairly unusual midfielder profile that I stumbled across while wondering what could have been.

Addendum
This was supposed to be a quick piece, which is why I didn’t spend a ton of extra time posting different data, formatting, etc. However, because someone requested it in the comments, here is the quick and dirty stats set I was looking at to build these (unformatted and ugly).

Box-to-Box_Mids

Opta-Logo-Final-Cyan

  • Mikael

    Hi, would you mind posting the data as a table on the bottom of these radar posts? I find myself scrolling up and down trying to compare the players.

    • tknutso

      Short on time, but done.

      • Mikael

        Thanks!

  • http://woodsport.wordpress.com Oscar

    Really interesting stuff. Am a massive fan of Diaby, and it’s such a shame injuries has ruined his career to such a great extent. I was desperately hoping he’d be back for the run in of this season but it doesn’t seem likely. I’d be interested to see how these players compare with some of the more widely renowned box-to-box midfielders such as Yaya Toure and Arturo Vidal.

  • Simon Cavalini

    Ted,

    One thing I didn’t notice when reading yesterday, but what strikes me now. Why is it Gundo’s 2011-2012 season and not 2012-2013?

    • tknutso

      Because that’s the season when he met the filter on Tackles, Ints, and Dribbles 😀

  • Simon Cavalini

    Hahaha, I should have known this was coming, fair enough. Let me rephrase. You refer to him as being very important last season (I’ve watched quite a lot of Dortmund last year and I totally agree), but is there a big difference between 2013 and 2012?

  • rodeoclown

    I was thinking about Banega and Thiago this season, but both dont have the defensive stats. However, when you plot Thiago Alcantara with your nice graph it would look hilarious. Is there actually any player in the world with stats like him?

    • tknutso

      I will look at Thiago toward the end of the season. He is basically first on my list of players to plot, but I wanted him to get a bigger N.

      Simon: Dunno. Not that much, no. Finite time, infinite things to dig further into.